The normally mundane post office has suddenly become a hot-button item, filled with emotion and viewed entirely through a political lens. But, from an economic point of view: the United States Postal Service is a government “service” that is much too costly…and, as a “business?” Forget about it.
Arriving home the other night after a week away in the Live Free or Die State of New Hampshire, I opened my mailbox and a sea of paper fell out. Carrying the mail up the driveway, I thought, “Here we go, again.”
After managing to free one hand long enough to open the door, I sat down…spilling the mail onto the kitchen counter. Then, piece by piece, I combed through my pile in search of anything, anything at all, that may have been remotely important. A thank you note from a friend’s son for a graduation gift, and an anniversary card from my mother-in-law.
The rest of it? Let’s just say…I felt bad for the trees.
Sifting through the pile, I saw catalogue after catalogue after catalogue. Most from brands I’ve never heard of–and, I guarantee, you haven’t either. There was the catalogue selling imitation Halloween styled black crows–complete with real feathers and “realist open and closed wing poses” for $59 (a set of four), the catalogue for preppy kids clothes, another flaunting faux mink sweaters vests for $5500 (wow.) And, then, there was the one that caused me to laugh out loud; it was a catalogue for authentic Swiss lederhosen! (They must know I traveled to Switzerland last year.) I received some lighting catalogues, outdoor furnitures catalogues, cookware catalogues, travel catalogues, a Christmas decor catalogue (for all those that like to plan Christmas in August, I guess) and many more.
All. This. Mail. In just in one week! It’s enough to turn one into a hard-core environmentalist.
OUR POST OFFICE IS BROKEN
Here’s the problem…
In the age of email, Facetime, and multiple instant chat services, we just don’t need mail as much as we once did. As such, mail volume since 2006 has declined an estimated 33% and yet, the United States Postal Service continues to grow and grow–losing billions of taxpayer dollars in the process. Most of its business comes from the direct marketing catalogues I just mentioned, and the rest of it seems to come from Amazon. And yet, even with all the marketing flyers and Amazon’s many millions of boxes shipping daily, the post office can’t seem to make ends meet.
Before anyone gets too nervous, I’m not calling for an end to the postoffice…however, I would like to see our postal service act, well, more like a business. Proposals have been made like ending Saturday delivery, which could save save $2 billion. Politically, it was a no-go.
And, there are other helpful ideas we should consider: why not charge a premium on mail that needs to travel unusually far? 55 cents is a great deal and we should aim to keep those rates as low as possible, however, if a direct marketer wants to inundate someone living in the middle of nowhere with Swiss catalogues…maybe USPS should charge a little more. Seems fair to me. What do you think?
POLITICAL LIGHTENING ROD
Unfortunately, this has now become an enormously political issue. Over a month ago, President Obama first addressed the post office’s budget shortfalls, saying that “those in power” are “undermining the Postal Service in the run-up to an election that is going to be dependent on mailed-in ballots.”
That’s a whole other issue and I welcome the opportunity to discuss it… HOWEVER, let’s just be real for a minute. Mail-in ballots or no mail-in ballots, let’s forget the politics and admit the simple truth. The postal office is a poorly run business. It’s antiquated, costly, and bloated with legacy pension obligations. Giving an ailing business more money is not the answer — restructuring it so as to enable it to have a prosperous future…IS.
We’re Not Cuba. Not Yet.
I mentioned this on twitter recently and got an earful from the left! “The post office wouldn’t be in the red if Republicans hadn’t required it to account for its pension obligations,” they complained. Uhm…hate it break it to you guys but, pension obligations are a liability that must be accounted for if we ever intend to pay them. It’s like asking a family to figure out what their assets and liabilities are in order to determine their worth….and, saying, oh, let’s just forget about the mortgage. Come on! You’ve got to include the liabilities. That is, unless the left is planning to scratch the pensions all together?
Their other argument is “It’s a service!” Okay, yeah, it’s a service…but, shouldn’t even a service operate with some good old free market principles? A well run business is a sustainable business. Clearly, the Dems should WANT the Post Office to be a sustainable business, shouldn’t they? Why allow it to keep losing money when you can take measures to improve it so it’s a long lasting enterprise? After all, we’re not Cuba. Not YET…
DEMS HOLD UP CORONAVIRUS STIMULUS
The democrats are attempting to pour more money into this failing enterprise…$25 billion is their request…and, they’re holding up important coronavirus aid because of it. This is spiteful to the people needing aid and it’s wrong for them to suggest the President is trying to prevent people from voting. Every American taxpayer should be able to expect that government will be careful with tax revenue…and manage its “services” prudently. So, regardless of the ballot issues the Dems are trying to currently peddle, these budget issues have plagued the post office for years now and are not specific to the pandemic.
All that said…the President, anxious to help people that need aid in this challenging time however, has said he’ll agree to give the USPS the money — so long as the dems came through on his requests. And yet, they’re still holding things up.
GET SMART: RESTRUCTURE
The real answer? We need to restructure the postal office to ensure that it can and will keep delivering our mail for the next several centuries. The reality is, we cannot continue to drain taxpayers with an enterprise so lacking in market principles. The interjection of some free market ideals would do the USPS some good.
And, hopefully, we’ll all get less catalogues!